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Patricia Richardson Withdraws as Ken Howard’s Replacement as SAG-AFTRA President

UPDATE, 4:36 p.m. — Patricia Richardson has declared that she does not want to succeed the late Ken Howard as president of SAG-AFTRA.

A Change.org petition drive was launched Thursday for Richardson to replace Howard. Richardson received 46% of the vote last August in a spirited electoral challenge to Howard, who died on Wednesday.

But Richardson told Variety that she was not comfortable with taking that course.

“While I really do appreciate the sentiments of the members asking me to run as the next President of SAG-AFTRA my feeling is that when the members elected Ken Howard they also endorsed his party and their philosophy,” she said.

“Therefore it seems right to me that Gabrielle Carteris, who is our Executive Vice President and current acting President should assume the rest of Ken’s term as President at our upcoming Board meeting. Gabrielle shares Ken’s beliefs and worked closely with him. I look forward to participating in a smooth transition.”

Executive vice president Carteris became acting president of SAG-AFTRA as a result of Howard’s passing. The union’s national board, which holds four meetings a year, will determine at its April 9 meeting who will succeed Howard for the remaining 17 months of his term.

Carteris was re-elected to the post of executive vice president at the union’s biannual convention in September. The SAG-AFTRA Constitution, enacted in 2012 as part of the merger of SAG and AFTRA, provides that the exec VP will assist the president in the governance of the union and will succeed the president should the office be vacated — with the national board mandated to fill the slot.

Carteris has been part of  the moderate-leaning Unite For Strength faction — which has dominated the leadership at the performers union since 2009.

The petition drive, launched by former presidential candidate Paul Edney, had attracted 132 signatures as of early Friday afternoon.

“It is the opinion of those who sign this petition that the national board should elect Patricia Richardson as our next president,” it said. “This is only fitting because Patricia came in second to Ken Howard in the last election for SAG-AFTRA president.”

Richardson, who headed the Membership First ticket, received 13,976 votes to Howard’s 16,233 as the election was far closer than the 2013 race, when Howard handily defeated Esai Morales.

Unite For Strength has espoused a path of moderation and largely avoided mobilizing the union’s 160,000 members. Howard and his allies touted their accomplishments in the campaign, citing the merger, contract gains in the 2014 successor deal for the master contract with producers and faster delivery of residuals.

During the campaign, Membership First asserted that Howard had been too accommodating to employers at negotiations, had overspent on the New York offices, had cloaked operations in secrecy and had not achieved gains in the booming digital sector.

Unite For Strength still dominates the 80-member board, but Membership First, which has long advocated a more confrontational style, made its best showing in the election since 2007. It has a dozen seats on the board with prominent reps including Richardson, Martin Sheen, Joanna Cassidy, Esai Morales, former SAG president Ed Asner, Diane Ladd, Frances Fisher and secretary-treasurer Jane Austin.

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